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Jury seated in trial of ex-Cheney aide

The 12 to hear evidence against `Scooter' Libby include four who gave some criticism of Bush.

January 23, 2007|Richard B. Schmitt | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — A jury was selected Monday to hear the case against former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who is charged with obstructing a federal probe into the disclosure of a CIA operative's identity.

Culminating four days of questioning by lawyers and a judge that often exposed potential panelists' anti-Bush sentiments, 12 jurors and four alternates were selected to hear the case of Libby, 56, the one-time chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton set opening statements in the case for today; the trial is expected to last up to six weeks.

Libby is charged with lying to federal agents and a grand jury about his conversations with journalists about CIA operative Valerie Plame. The operative's identity was made public in newspaper reports in July 2003. The journalists, several of whom are expected to testify, have told investigators that Libby leaked key details about Plame, who is married to a critic of the Bush administration.

Libby has denied that he lied or obstructed justice. He is expected to offer up a defense that he was immersed in life-or-death matters of state when he spoke with the journalists, which may have led him to inaccurately recall details of those conversations.

Cheney and other prominent past and present administration officials are expected to testify. The trial is also expected to feature the testimony of three journalists who spoke with Libby, including Tim Russert, moderator of NBC News' "Meet the Press."

The jury selection was extended by one day in part by an effort by defense lawyers to identity potential jurors who strongly disapprove of the Bush administration and its war policies because of fears they would be biased against Libby.

Six potential jurors were dismissed because of anti-Bush sentiments. At least four members of the nine-woman, three-man jury expressed negative views about the administration but said that they could still be fair.

Among the jurors is a former Washington Post reporter who was a neighbor of one potential witness, Russert, and worked for another, Post editor and reporter Bob Woodward.

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rick.schmitt@latimes.com

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